Discussion in 'Hardscaping' started by bribrius, Jun 19, 2008.

  1. bribrius

    bribrius LawnSite Member
    Messages: 34

    not my job but i was invited in on it to help a friend. he basically asked me if wasnted to come over and run a backhoe loader digging trenches, because he wasnt very good on the machine and was short on time due to weather and schedule. so i picked us up a coffee and went over.

    basically he is making block retaining walls the come down off a road way on a hill. the idea is to create big steps i guess for the home owner to put in flower beds or something.
    they were measured out when i got there and staked. he had started digging and i kept on with that. all good until i started ripping out tree roots but did manage to get the dimensions for the trenches.
    things went bad when the customer showed up. suddenly the beds didnt look like they would be big enough and this wasnt what they agreed to according to them. my buddy got out his line and measured and showed them the dimensions off the road. then they said they they thought he had measured further down from the road in the agreement. he had a drawing he showed them originally with the dimensions on it but they still said they thought he measured further down from the road. now he doesnt have enough block to do the job and needs more. needs to redo some of the digging. and is adding quite a bit to the height of the walls by further going down. none of which they seem like they want to pay for. while the conversation turned into a near argument with the customers threatening to have him stop all work i did speak up and mention that if i go to much further down with the backhoe on one side i may get out too many roots and put the tree over there in danger of falling which they seemed to understand and they dont own the tree so cant cut it. i know this is sounding like a big mess but it kind of turned into one in about ten minutes. if my buddy walks away now he will make a few hundred for the day if he doesnt refund any of the money. the customers are acting like they dont want to pay more for more work/materials and believe they are right. i honestly dont know who is right since i wasnt part of the originaly agreement and it has little to do with me. i was just running the machine a bit to help him out. i do know my buddy can be bad at explaining himself (especially when he is mad) but also that customers tend to want to get more than they pay for.
    im not a landscaper but imagine this would have a big difference on laying the blocks and cutting the blocks so they fit together in these walls.
    anyone else have any communication issues like this? suggestions for him or perhaps general guidance on how to avoid this type of thing? the block for what he thought he was doing is all on site (seven or eight pallets and some crushed rock). the trenches are dug but will need to be partially redone if they go with what they claimed he was suppose to do. more block will need to be ordered for the job to be completed also in the manner they say they thought it was going to be done.
  2. LB1234

    LB1234 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,208

    detailed contracts. not only dimensions and locations in a schematic of some sort but mark out with marking paint or something were the wall is going to go BEFORE anything starts. Get the owners to signoff on location and everything.
  3. PatriotLandscape

    PatriotLandscape LawnSite Bronze Member
    from MA
    Messages: 1,209

    in a court of law words mean more than pictures. What does the contract say?
  4. DVS Hardscaper

    DVS Hardscaper LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,583

    A professional contractor will ALWAYS have the proposed layout drawn on a scaled plan. And client will sign the scaled plan.

    A professional contractor will ALWAYS draft a DETAILED proposal that spells out a description of materials to be used along with construction procedures.
  5. Ramairfreak98ss

    Ramairfreak98ss LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,210

    Sounds like the guy has all of it already, showed the customers before and after and they just "think" they imagined it would look different. He can stop now and invoice them for his work and supplies purchased already or continue, finish and make them honor the contract amount.

    It sucks, but theres lot of people who just perceive something mentally different than they read it on paper.

    I had a lady, wanted a landscape that "looked" like one we did around the corner from her that was 12k... she didnt want to spend over 2k, i worked with her to find all possiblities of doing the work, she had her "lawn" guy install home decrap plants for her in the end :(

    I had a lady i posted about here a month ago, wanted mulching but then asked for all these other yard tasks too... I sent her a quotation for $385 for mulching work and some cleanup of the mulchbeds, told her we would charge $50 for doing the other work, she complained about the "other" work and so i dropped the charge, she then didnt think she should pay us anything but sent us $300 of the bill :/ aholes! You either have a customer that is on par with their quote or they are not and will never be happy.
  6. LB1234

    LB1234 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,208

    doesn't sound as if he marked the area out BEFORE the start of work and had the homeowners sign off on it. Seems to me that would clear up the entire miscommunication (if in fact there is even one...sounds like the customers ASSumption was wrong).

    If you want to go further, if there is a change to the original scope of work a change order should be put in place outlining (in detail) all the additional costs, materials, etc.). And yes, have the homeowners sign off on that.

    I could also get into the payment terms. The way I work I get a certain % up front one week before the start date, additional % on the start date, if applicable we get progress payments, and then a balance due upon completion. What this does is if the customer decides to make a "I'm not paying you anymore" I can walk away and not worry about being out on the materials or out on paying my employees. Granted I won't see my profit and may lose a few bucks (depending were we are at in the job) but I won't lose my shorts either.
  7. bribrius

    bribrius LawnSite Member
    Messages: 34

    ended up walking off on it. they refused to pay more. refused to even cover the expenses already out beyond there intitial deposit so had to get the materials back too.
    all good because after the "repossession" of the materials on the site it actually comes down to the customer being owed six hundred in which my buddys cutting a check to them with a tally of the expenses deducted from there first payment.

    customers are not happy at all right now. thought they would at least be able to keep the materials on site but they wouldnt pay the difference so no choice.
    not a happy ending. too bad.
  8. ponyboy

    ponyboy LawnSite Bronze Member
    from ny
    Messages: 1,576

    i am an ass i would not cut a check i would bill $600 in loading and unloading then restocking fees and gas charges etc.. let them take him to court and argue the whole job out and once i was served with papers then i would counter sue for breaking a contract and try to get more . I am a member of my local Professional Landscaping Ass. and even still customer treat us like crap not all but alot they do not think we are allowed to make money and we should just do the work at cost your buddy is a better person than me. stick to your guns and propasals get what was agreed upon and do not settle for less
  9. Ramairfreak98ss

    Ramairfreak98ss LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,210

    lol yeah. All that extra work to collect the supplies, i wouldn't want to do it.

    I see tons of companies go spray painting lawns all the time for areas where theyre going to estimate a quote for a customer, by the time i get there and see 2-3 other companies marks, i wont even bother quoting it since its wasting my time by then.

    I've never drawn on someones property unless asked or prior to layout of where something is going to go. WE DO explain in detail, or plans the setbacks, footage or "Wall to be installed 12' off left side of driveway" or whatever. Either way, if dumb@#$# customer cant understand where 12' is in your book compared to his ahole.. thats his fault. marking the lines for us is only so my own guys know where were working and clears up any mis-communication between my employees.
  10. LB1234

    LB1234 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,208

    Use some rope or a garden hose when first meeting the customer. No need to spray lines for first interview/meeting. Spray paint is only AFTER contract is in place.

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